My Buddy

This will be long, go get a cup of coffee.

My parents went through a divorce when I was about 11.  They split up and my dad moved out.  The actual divorce wasn't legalized until about 10 years later.  Today my parents are civil and will communicate with each other if needed.  However the break itself wasn't amicable and my brother and I went through a lot.  To this day there are things from which we haven't recovered.

However, we both survived.  My parents both remarried and my mom lost her husband to cancer, then married again.  My dad's been with his wife for some time now, I forget honestly how much.  I think 15 years or more.  My family isn't close.  Something happened with my brother and my parents some 20 years ago and it's never been the same.  Everyone's tried to the limits of their abilities and compassion to recover, but I think the rift is too wide.  I wish it weren't the case, and I've tried to mediate, but so much has been lost in time and emotion that I think we'll all just keep on the way we are.  As long as it's not brought up often, it's probably for the best.

I've been working on keeping in touch with my brother, and I know I could do more, but it's better lately and I think we're still good friends.  I'm sure there's things about each other that we don't like, but we're family and that's important to have.  He's been there for me and I hope he knows I'm there for him.  The physical distance isn't easy, but I think we've been actually getting a little closer.

My parents are their own people.  They still love and care for both me and my brother, but like I said, something happened and the wrong choices were made or the wrong words were said.  Now they live their own lives as best they can.  Their children have been grown adults for years and they have their own problems to worry about.  I love them too.  They've been there for me when I've needed it and although things have been bad between my brother and them, I know they still care.  I hear it all the time, but I don't think we'll ever be a very close family.

But I have my own family now too.  I have two great kids, good friends in my ex-wife and her new wife, and a group of friends that is quick with a helping hand, generous with a bar tab, and always looking out for each other.  I wouldn't say I'm super close with any one of them, and to quote Bilbo, “I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”  Having this kind of support system has always been valuable.  When times were tough, there has always been people upon whom I could rely.

All of this leads up to recent events of the past month and the bond I see developing between me and my son.  Gregory and I are a lot alike, but he tends to wear his heart on his sleeve more than I do.  I don't know if I was like that as a child, but I know now that I don't express my feelings nearly as brilliantly as he does.  He has been diagnosed with ADD, and while I'm pretty sure I have it too, I've never seen a doctor for it.  I never thought it was a problem.

When we put Chimera down, Cheryl took it hard.  It was her dog.  But Gregory was the one who played with her the most, took her on the most walks, feed her the most and I think felt the most attached.  He was crushed when we had to put her down.  He's lost fish before and never took it well, but this was his first big loss.  Chim was always in his life.

We put Chim down a week after Grace left me.  I too was crushed and went through a lot of pain for the loss.  I'd lost a friend, a future, and more than a little of myself.  I was very much attached to her and the life we had.  It's been a month and I'm still a mess.  I've just recently decided I can't be friends with her for the time being and I've severed what little contact we had.  It was as painful as the first break and the notion of accepting the fact that she is forever out of my life brought up all kinds of new emotions.  But it's for the best and time will heal it all.  Whatever hope I have for reuniting with her will fade and in time I won't think of her at all.  That time is not now, but it will happen.

In the meantime, my need to feel pain and be sad and recover is paralleling Gregory's loss of Chim.  He wakes up crying because he misses her.  He thinks of her all the time.  He gets sad when he thinks of things that our new dog doesn't do that she did.  When he finds an old toy of hers, it hits him in all the feels.  It's a loss he has to deal with.

So we talk about our feelings together.  I know he's only 9 and he lacks some of the vocabulary needed, but his pain is just as real and his need to heal is just as real.  What he lacks in experience in helping him cope, or the awareness and tools to help him see what he needs to do, he makes up for in youthful optimism.  He may not need to talk as much but he's also not weighed down by what I can only call "age."  His world is smaller, and when it crashes down around him, it still hurts, but he'll recover quickly.

For my part, I've been trying to give him the tools he needs.  He's almost past the point of being sad all the time, so I don't have to do much.  I've told him he can come to me any time he feels like something is wrong and that I'll always listen to any time he just wants to vent or be sad.  I'm also doing it to talk myself down from all the hurt I have.  I've been offering advice to breakups on reddit, knowing that shared pain is pain halved.  I think in talking to Gregory too, he'll see that pain impacts everyone but that it's okay to share and talk and have feelings.  I will admit that I cry a lot when I talk to him about it.  Part of me feels bad for dragging him down with me, so I try to make sure he knows that it's okay to have these feelings and that in time we'll be able to look back with fondness rather than loss.

I experienced this with my parents as well.  When they split it was traumatic for everyone.  I saw my parents cry and rage and feel hopeless.  They had relationships after that didn't last that caused more grief and more pain.  I felt odd at the time, finally seeing that they weren't giant indestructible creatures.  Seeing your parents cry is hard to deal with.  You don't think that kind of pain is possible, but seeing it repeatedly over a lifetime you realize it's just a part of life.  It'll heal.  It leaves scars and never leaves you, but over time it gets better.  We all get up, we all dust ourselves off, and get back to what we know as life.  We get new pets, new loves and new paths.  Experiencing it with my son, having my parents talk to me, and having my friends around has been invaluable.  I wouldn't wish this kind of pain on anyone, but I would wish that if they did they were able to share it openly and have the same help as Greogry and I do.

I'll never forget Grace and Gregory will never forget Chim, but I think because of this, we'll be better friends and better to each other.  If that's the only positive that comes from all the pain, it's very much worth it.


Beckye said...

Ben, I am so, so sorry for both of your losses. That can be devastating, and I'm praying that the God of all comfort comforts both of your hearts and minds. We'll be praying for both of you. Big virtual hugs.

Ben Strickland said...

I don't know if I'm blind, a bad friend, or if you've been fantastically un-modern (read:private) in your break with Grace, but this morning was the first time I put the pieces together.

The most relevant and true phrase of encouragement I offer you is: I feel ya, dog.

You should also know I respect you and revere you as one of my top few model dads. You seriously kick the hell out of parenting and have great kids to show for it.

Thanks for being, man. This kind of stuff hurts some, as it should. If it didn't, that'd be more to be worried about.

Glad to know you.

Kim R said...

Oh hellz in reading this I am just now realizing that there was a break between you and Grace and I am so sorry to hear it. Urgh and I posted that poem about heartbreak today *slaps forehead*. I am sorry about your pup too, but I had no idea you have had such losses recently.

Ben Rollman said...

Thanks guys. I've been trying to be quiet about it, but it's been hard. I didn't want to drag anything through the mud. It was her decision to leave. She wasn't happy, I didn't see it. She just doesn't want to be tied down to a family when she feels she has years of growth left. I can't fault her for that, but it doesn't make it hurt less.

I'll probably be a bit messed up for a while, but I'm sure it'll pass. It has before, and it has for everyone else in history. In time, who knows. Right?

Ben - I know you're there with me. I figured if anyone knew what it was like it was you. Don't worry about not seeing it, we didn't really shout it to the world. It's all good. Thanks man.